Throwback to the time I was on The Legendary Swordsman – a fantasy period drama set in Ancient China.
This was one of the very first television shows I’d been cast in while living in Singapore, and the first scene I had to shoot was with Chen Tianwen – an incredible actor I’d literally grown up watching on TV since I was 4 or 5. It was a scene in a lake, so I was stripped down to my ancient Chinese ‘undergarments’ with my hair in an elaborate updo and GIANT rubber flippers on my feet because the bottom of the lake was laden with slippery moss-covered rocks. I looked like an amphibious Chinese mer-creature. Of course, the Assistant Director cheerfully informed me 5 seconds before the first take that the lake was really an old rock quarry, and that the shallow waters only extended about 6 to 8 feet from the shore, after which, the lakebed plunged sharply into a deep abyss, and if our flippers slipped and tipped us over, we would likely drown.
Sure, I scuba dive in the open ocean but abysses freak me out. Did you ever see the movie, Abyss?? Thankfully, in the first shot we filmed, all I had to do was giggle flirtatiously as my ‘handmaiden’ and I tried to seduce Chen Tianwen. He was a complete professional – all cool, composed, and “I shoot TV shows in bodies of water over bottomless chasms all the time.” Meanwhile, I could barely tell if I was laughing seductively or crying tears of fear because my feet were 3 inches away from certain death (and possibly evil abyss-dwelling aliens). “Don’t worry,” Tianwen said in Mandarin, waving one airy hand. “If you fall over, I’ll catch you. Just don’t swallow any of the water – it’s full of poisonous algae. THEN you’ll die for sure.”
The final shot of the day was of the three of us screaming as we fled the lake. If I remember correctly, it was my character who saw the danger approach, shouted to the other two, and high-tailed it out of there. After we wrapped, the director came over to tell me that my acting had been superb. “Hěn zìrán,” (“very natural”) he said.